Monday, March 8, 2010

Monday's musings

The Obama administration promised "hope and change", and a complete 180 from all of Washington's same old "games." But the reality is that the Obama team has been just as susceptible to it as has any other administration:
"...for all their brio, Obama’s team has been proven just as susceptible to Washington’s favorite parlor games as anyone, in a way that’s caused more tension and drama inside the White House than any particular policy or political differences.
The reason these questions have exerted such a powerful effect on the Obama story line is that much of the outside critique is grounded at least partly in reality.
Chief of staff Rahm Emanuel gets criticized for biting off more than he can chew. And in fact, he manages political, policy and congressional portfolios that compete for his attention. Axelrod gets criticized for being so close to Obama for so long that he sometimes fails to appreciate and anticipate when the president's approach isn't resonating. And in fact, the message, which Axelrod often crafts, has been badly muddled at key points, primarily on health reform. After the president’s historic win in 2008, his close aides might have been forgiven for thinking that the usual rules of politics didn’t apply to them — that they could rise above the Washington ways merely by saying they would. But upon taking office, they, too, quickly lapsed into old Washington habits, with several senior staffers sitting for flattering profiles and photo shoots that made them star players in Obama’s world.
And as the waters have grown choppy, some of the key players have taken to defending their actions in the press — which also contributes to a sense that Obama’s White House is getting pulled into the minute-by-minute tit-for-tat it swore to avoid."

The Clinton administration became famous for its infighting and leaking to the press; the Obama folks don't look all that different.

Meanwhile, Iraq held an election yesterday and 62% of the electorate voted; violence was much reduced. Sounds like stability is approaching there, as is democracy. We'll await liberals and Democrats' congratulations to the former members of the Bush administration for the Bushies' steadfastness in sticking with things in Iraq. I have a hunch we'll be waiting for a long time, though...

Conservatives and Republicans need to emphasize it: the Bush administration is being vindicated on a daily basis in Iraq.

On health care: why is it that Democrats should think twice before ramming a health care bill through Congress via "reconciliation"? Former Clinton pollster Mark Penn presents powerful evidence today:
"Reconciliation has been used before to pass major legislation. Proponents of this approach are fond of pointing to the passage of welfare reform, COBRA, and Bush's '01 and '03 tax cuts as evidence that the Democrats are fully inside the lines. For the administration, the most crucial difference between those bills and this is not their urgency, partisan nature, or even particularly their impact on the deficit; for Obama and his team, the most critical variant is that those bills were popular with the public. In 1996, 68% of Americans favored welfare reform. In 2000, before Bush's $1.3 trillion tax cut was introduced (by the notably bipartisan duo of Senators Phil Gramm and Zell Miller,) 63% of Americans thought they were paying too much income tax; by the spring of 2001, after a month of legislative wrangling, 56% favored Bush's proposed cuts. In 2003, with the Iraq war railing in the background and a post-9/11 economy flailing at home, 52% supported the second round of cuts. Not a huge margin, perhaps, but still a majority. A February CNN poll puts voter support for the current bill (or a similar variant thereof) at just 25%. An equal percentage thinks Congress should forget health care reform altogether, while 48% think they should start work on an entirely new bill. Of more concern to any Democrat with an eye on reelection, Independents remain unmoved by the arguments in reform's favor, with only 18% supporting it and 52% calling for an entirely new bill."

Read his entire piece.

Women's hoops--Notre Dame 75, St. John's 67: St. John's has some real athletes. They're a good club; they are 25-5 on the season, yet I have a hunch few have heard of them. So this was a good win for Notre Dame, and will edge them toward at least a decent seed in the NCAA Tournament. Key stats: freshman Sylar Diggins had 21 points for Notre Dame, and took over the game at times. She's coming on. And the Irish held St. John's to 31 second half points, after allowing the Red Storm to gouge their zone defense in the first half.
But now the Irish must face mighty UConn. I don't know that anyone can beat the Huskies. Can the Irish keep it close?

Meanwhile, in men's hoops, it was Michigan State 64, Michigan 48: for MSU, a return to the old standbys of defense, rebounding, hustle; for Michigan, ho-hum---19 turnovers, 35% shooting. It's been a miserable season for John Beilein's club; where do they go from here? Fans have to wonder. For Tom Izzo's MSU team, they're now 25-8, they win a share of the Big Ten title, and have a chance again to compete in the NCAA tourney.